Eight teams have their focus trained upon the first opportunity for silverware of the season. Read ahead for our preview of the Toals County Antrim Shield quarterfinal.
With a favourable draw, the County Antrim Shield semifinal is guaranteed to have representation from outside the top division. A steady season thus far for Warren Feeney has seen Ards occupy a top-six position in the NIFL Championship, while George O’Boyle’s Welders are second from bottom. O’Boyle however will be encouraged by Saturday’s display. Goals from Scott Davidson and Mathew Ferguson delivered a memorable 2-1 victory over leaders Portadown. With only two points separating them from seventh place, the Welders will be hopeful going in to this match. Ards meanwhile left the Newry Showgrounds disappointed this weekend. A 5-1 defeat upset a good run of form for Feeney’s men who had secured wins over QUB and Ballyclare in recent weeks.
Expect a tight, cagey affair in Bangor tomorrow night. Ards’ experience of playing in a higher division may prove the difference on the night. A plucky Welders side however is sure to put in a major effort throughout.
Prediction: Ards to win at 11/10
David Jeffrey and Stephen Baxter have become familiar foes in the last decade. In recent seasons, Ballymena boss Jeffrey has established a side more than able to compete with Crusaders, particularly at home. The Sky Blues have tasted defeat just once in their last five home games against Baxter’s men, winning two and drawing two of the remaining games. While Crusaders have won six of the last seven games staged at Seaview, the journey north is clearly not relished by the Crues. A 1-1 draw at the Showgrounds on Saturday will see Baxter desperate to produce a result come Tuesday night. Meanwhile, persistent injuries around the Ballymena squad may see a rotation policy implemented with a focus upon recapturing last season’s league form.
Another well contested match is surely in store here as two heavyweights collide. The depth of the Crusader’s squad may be the difference. Expect the Crues to shade this one and maintain their defense of the Shield.
Prediction: 90 minute draw at 5/2
A lack of consistency has undermined the progress of these two talented sides so far this season. Just two points separate the teams in the league this season. Mick McDermott and Tiernan Lynch will be keen to establish both themselves and their sides by securing the first major silverware of the season. Both exciting teams in their own right, goals could be the order of the day on Tuesday. An average of over three goals per game for each this season is a recipe for excitement in East Belfast. Larne’s previous trip to the Oval was decided by a late Marcus Kane finish in a 2 – 1 victory for the Glens. With the teams to meet again on Friday evening, Tuesday night will prove a vital marker for the weekend’s return to league action. Expect the Glens to progress to the semifinals on the back of a goal-fest.
Prediction: Glentoran win at 5/4
Strong starts from Linfield and Cliftonville has seen them in the mix for a title tilt this season. Linfield’s return to domestic action has saw them bring the top of the table in to their own hands, while McLoughlin’s Cliftnville currently reside in third spot, just four points off the summit. Linfield’s free-scoring attack comes up against a Cliftonville side that has secured four clean sheets (and four wins) from their last five league games. Sure to be an intriguing tactical affair at Windsor Park, the current league champions will be expected to have too much for the Reds once again. A similar outcome to Linfield’s 1 – 0 victory at Solitude in September could be on the horizon.
Prediction: Linfield to win at 8/11
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